• Google+ Social Icon
  • Facebook Social Icon

© 2018, The Screening Room AV

Introducing The Screening Room Revel Speaker Challenge!

Revel Speakers have been demonstrated to sound superior to competing speakers in any price range in scientifically controlled, double blind listening tests. Bring in any speaker regardless of brand or price and shoot it out with a Revel model under the same kind of controlled, level matched and blind listening conditions in our Reference Showroom!* Revel speakers start at $900 per pair, and top out at the flagship Salon2 at $22K per pair. Read on to learn more about the amazing science and R&D that goes into the Revel brand.

(*Appointment necessary - contact us for more details!).

Revel was started in the 1990s by Sidney Harman (of Harman Kardon fame) when he challenged speaker engineers with a single directive;
"make the world's best loudspeakers." Harman engineers were in a unique position to actually deliver on this directive, as Harman Industries possessed (and still does) the single largest and best equipped acoustical R&D facility in the world.

As Kevin Voecks, head of the Revel project at Harman puts it: "Rather than doing it in a traditional way, you know, on a shoestring, we were able to start up with the best engineering resources at our disposal in the world...it was a unique opportunity to create a high-end speaker company with the goal of simply creating the best sounding loudspeakers. In fact, that’s the only thing Dr. Harman said at the inception of the company, “Make the world’s best loudspeakers.” [There were] no restrictions on the kind of technology....We determined with double blind listening tests and engineering research that dynamic loudspeakers although refined in numerous ways, make for the most accurate loudspeakers" (http://hometheaterhifi.com/volume_11_2/feature-interview-kevin-voecks-4-2004.html).
 

The fact that rigorous scientific protocols were put into place at Harman to ensure that Revel speakers did indeed, sound better than the competing designs greatly intrigued us. Namely, because our frustration has always been that all speaker manufacturers claim they have the best sounding speakers without any proof to back it up. In our opinion, this kind of market confusion has led to the oft-repeated assertion that speaker selection is simply a matter of personal preference.


But is this actually true?

To answer this question, we turn to the work of Drs. Toole and Olive.
 

 Dr. Sean Olive  
Dr. Floyd Toole

Dr. Floyd Toole is as close as one can get to a celebrity or legend in sound reproduction circles, and for good reason. Dr. Toole was the one to spearhead the first scientifically controlled study of sound / acoustics at the National Research Council in Canada, starting back in the 1970s. Working alongside his colleague, Dr. Sean Olive, their joint studies at the NRC demonstrated one thing loud and clear: the most accurate speakers with the flattest frequency response invariably won their comparative speaker listening tests. In more specific terms, the best sounding speakers not only delivered flat and accurate frequency response directly on axis (in front of the speaker), but also off axis (off to the sides and above and below).

 

The reason for this is clear -- so much of what we hear during a live music performance consists not only of direct sound coming straight from the performers, but also congruent sound reflections coming from the walls, floor and ceiling. For this reason, it is vitally important that the sound emanating from a speaker is just as flat and neutral out to the sides as it is coming directly from the front. When this is executed properly, the end result is a sound that's more natural, clean and open; and much closer to a live performance.

After the conclusion of the Canadian NRC initiative, Drs. Toole and Olive were hired to continue their research at Harman labs, which is still the largest and best equipped acoustics R&D facility in the world. At Harman, they were told to continue their research in a true scientific manner, not beholden to corporate interests.

 

Harman Labs - Northridge, CA

The results of their studies were published in peer reviewed, scientific journals and shared with the world in the true spirit of science. Although Dr. Toole is now semi-retired, his research still continues to this day under the guidance of Dr. Sean Olive. As one can imagine, the studies undertaken at Harman have rapidly dispelled numerous audio myths:

MYTH: People of various cultures and age groups prefer a different type of sound / voicing from their speakers.

FACT: Regardless of age or culture, double blind tests show that accurate reproduction is the determining factor in speaker preference: http://seanolive.blogspot.com/2012/0...-japanese.html.

MYTH: Speaker preference is a matter of personal preference. 

 

FACT: Harman labs is able to predict with 86% accuracy which speaker will win double blind tests by examining detailed measurements of each speaker used in the test -- the most neutral speaker with the widest and flattest dispersion will invariably win: www.soundandvision.com/content/15-minutes-harmans-audio-guru-sean-olive.

 

MYTH: The more expensive speakers are, the better they sound.

FACT: False, according to Harman researchers, "...some of the worst sounding speakers are also some of the most expensive."
 

Along with dispelling many myths, Harman's research has lead to numerous refinements in their loudspeaker products, primarily in the JBL and Revel brands. Both are known for extreme accuracy and fidelity to the source and broad, even dispersion.

As a result of the studies undertaken by Drs. Toole and Olive, the designers at Revel (Kevin Voecks and Mark Glazer) started employing the same types of scientific protocols to ensure that Revel speaker designs could empirically outperform speakers that claimed to be the best at multiples of their price point.

 

It's important to note here that Harman's tests are scientifically controlled, not subjective, and are truly double blind with neither the listener nor the tester knowing which speaker is playing at any given time. The speakers are also precisely level matched so that volume / efficiency differences won't affect the outcome (the louder or “brighter” speaker will typically "win" in A/B comparisons). Each speaker is also moved into the identical position so that room boundary interactions are compensated for (thanks to the pneumatic speaker mover designed by Dr. Olive). The listeners then rate each speaker on a sliding scale. Only after the testing is done is it revealed which speaker is which.

Harman MLL Double Blind Listening Chamber

Revel models have been tested against other high-end speakers including B&W, Klipsch, Martin Logan, Golden Ear, Definitive Technology and many others with similar results. As a matter of fact, no speaker has ever beat the top-of-the-line Salon2 in double blind tests. In fact, when we visited the Harman test facility, one of the testers commented that the Salon2 "mopped the floor" with a much more expensive model from Wilson Audio during one of the trials. But what's even more impressive than its ability to outperform higher priced speakers is that Revel refuses to put a speaker into production until it consistently beats competing models during scientifically controlled listening tests.

The beauty of the Revel method is that it takes all of the variables out of the listening equation. In uncontrolled conditions, there are many things that affect our ability to accurately judge the performance of competing speakers -- from varying listening environments, electronics, room placement and source material to the influence of a persuasive salesperson controlling the demo. However, even if we could control all of these variables, the test wouldn't be accurate unless all of the speakers were in the same location when listened to. (For example, if one pair of speakers is closer to a wall, it will have a bass boost that a speaker placed into the middle of the room will not possess, influencing your perceptions). The Harman double blind speaker chamber eliminates this variable as each speaker is moved into the exact same location during testing with a pneumatic speaker mover.  Watch the video below to learn more.

Revel Brand Video

As a result of Harman's dedication to accuracy, it should not surprise you to learn that Revel and JBL are often the speakers professionals choose when mastering or mixing music or movies, or that there are nine Revel Salon2 speakers employed in the Dolby Labs Critical Listening Room (as seen below).  What's also not surprising is that much of the time Revel designs are mixed and matched with speakers from JBL Synthesis or JBL Pro during professional mastering and mixing sessions because they share much of the same DNA.

Dolby Labs Critical Listening Room

Much like its sister brand, JBL Synthesis, you will often find Revel speakers on critical mixing and mastering stages:

The Art of Mastering - Revel Ultima2 Loudspeakers

There are four separate lines under the Revel speaker brand: Concerta2 (entry level but extremely high fidelity loudspeakers starting at $900 per pair), the middle of the line Performa3 (which includes the F208one of the most well reviewed speakers of all time), the top of the line Ultima2 (including the unbeaten Salon2 flagship), and a full line of Architectural in-wall and in-ceiling speakers. Read more about Revel lineup, including subwoofers, surround and center channel options at www.revelspeakers.com.